Scorsese’s notes on Robert De Niro’s tattoos. Photo: Pinterest.

This month in 1991, the American psychological thriller film Cape Fear was released. Directed by Martin Scorcese, it was a remake of the 1962 film of the same name. It stars Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Joe Don Baker, and Juliette Lewis.

The film tells the story of a convicted rapist, Max Cady (Robert De Niro), who, mostly by using his newfound knowledge of the law and its numerous loopholes, seeks vengeance against a former public defender, whom he blames for his 14-year imprisonment because of the purposefully faulty defense tactics used during his trials.

De Niro’s preparation for his character was pretty legendary. He invested $5,000 with a dentist to make his teeth look wrong, plus months of physical working out got him into shape for the role of Cady.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, one thing he didn’t do was getting his body permanently tattooed as part of the production process. Instead, a call went in to a man in Edinburgh by the name of Paul Jacobs from Temptu Europa, whose specialism was temporary tattoos for the film and television business.

Paul Jacobs said, “De Niro got actively involved in the design of Cady’s ink. With Temptu, he went through the Bible and picked phrases having to with vengeance and betrayal. Two of the phrases that made it onto De Niro’s body are ‘The Lord is the Avenger’ and ‘Vengeance is Mine’, complete with chapter and verse. De Niro was shaping the the character and we had his input very early on. He monitored the tattoos down to the smallest detail.”


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